Friday, February 28, 2014

Blog Tour & Review :: Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

Title: Princess Ever After
Author: Rachel Hauck
Publisher: Zondervan (Feb 2014)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group

Purchase a copy and learn more at Rachel’s website.
About the Book:
A Royal Wedding Book

Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.

But she’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairytales.

Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future—and his own.

Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together—with a little divine intervention—Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.
Review:
This is the book that I've been waiting for since I finished the last page of Once Upon a Prince last year. No, seriously... like borderline cyber-stalking Hauck's Instagram for updates on when she was going to be done writing the next book because you JUST.CAN'T.WAIT!!! I absolutely adored Once Upon a Prince and I have to say, upfront, that I was initially very disappointed that it was a completely new story and not a continuation of the first one. However, once I got over that initial disappointment, I'm glad that it opened up a new world with a whole new set of loveable characters like Regina ("Reggie") and Tanner.

Like I've said before, what girl does not want to be a princess? I think the only thing better than becoming a princess by marrying a prince, is finding out that you were BORN one. Girl power, all the way! This is what happens with Reggie when Tanner, the Minister of Culture of Hessenberg, arrives in her town to inform her that she is the long lost royal heiress to the throne through her Grandmother Alice. Reggie spends most of the story dealing with the conflict of leaving her life behind (where she has recently rediscovered a love in restoring old cars) to be the rightful heiress of a small nation, which she knows nothing about.

It is this journey that brings Reggie and Tanner together and THIS is what I love the most about Rachel's writing. She writes stories about characters that feel so real to you... in their flaws, in their weaknesses, in their insecurities and in their extra "baggage." You love them and root for them. Not only that, but it truly is refreshing to read a clean, light-hearted, romantic love story that is not all about lust and sex. And even though, almost every single one of us will ever marry a prince or be a long lost princess, we are princesses in God's Kingdom! Plus, God's plans are ALWAYS better than our own. It's refreshing also to see real characters struggle with following their own plans (which we always think is better) or obeying God by following His.

Sprinkled throughout the story are journal entries from Reggie's grandmother, Alice, and they provided flashbacks to connect the past and present together. The diary entries provide insight into who Alice was and her innermost thoughts and feelings and definitely add depth to the story overall. I also like that we get a glimpse of Nathaniel and Susanna from the first book. (That definitely helped me get over the fact that the WHOLE book wasn't going to be about them.)

Without giving away too much, there are lots of twists and turns as Reggie has to deal with strong opposition while ultimately deciding whether she's going to follow her destiny and more importantly, her heart. 

Lastly, I wanted so bad to love this book as much as I did the first one. I think I set my expectations so high that nothing could have met them. In addition, the beginning of the story was a little slow for me, especially since I know nothing about cars other than driving them and buying gas, so the early parts of the book was hard for me to get really into because I couldn't relate. It didn't have the same sparkle as the first book, but after I got over myself, I'm happy to say that it was still a very enjoyable story and I hope there's a 3rd one to look forward to.  Rachel Hauck is an amazing writer and I hope there are many, many more books to come from her in the future.

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

About the author:
Rachel Hauck is the bestselling author of ACFW Book of the Year winner Sweet Caroline, RITA Finalist Love Starts With Elle, bestselling and RITA Finalist The Wedding Dress, and of the critically acclaimed fiction collaboration with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, The Songbird Novels. Hauck’s latest release, is Princess Ever After, the second release in the Royal Wedding series. Once Upon A Prince (the first in the series), received rave reviews, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

Hauck earned a degree in Journalism from Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes fan. She worked in the corporate software world until 2004 when she began to write fulltime. Although she admits to being Yankee-born, Hauck has lived in the south most of her life and works her southern experience into her stories. She now lives in sunny, though sometimes hurricane-plagued, central Florida with her husband and writes from her own two-story tower.

She is the past president of American Christian Fiction Writers and now serves on the executive board. She was named ACFW 2013 Mentor of the Year.

Hauck is also one of ten author contributors to Southern Belle View Daily.

Visit her website at www.rachelhauck.com to sign up for her newsletter, read her blog and follow her on Facebook (Rachel Hayes Hauck) and Twitter (@RachelHauck).

Check out more posts on the blog tour: http://litfusegroup.com/author/rhauck

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blog Tour & Book Review :: The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler

Title: The Secrets of Happy Families
Author: Bruce Feiler
Publisher: William Morrow (Dec 2013)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group

Purchase a copy and download the Happy Families Toolkit: http://ow.ly/sSUq6
About the Book:
The book that revolutionized our view of what makes families happy . . .

Determined to find the smartest solutions and the most cutting-edge research about families, bestselling author and New York Times family columnist Bruce Feiler gathered team-building exercises and problem-solving techniques from the most creative minds---from Silicon Valley to the Green Berets---and tested these ideas with his wife and kids. The result is a lively, original look at how we can create stronger parent/child relationships, manage the chaos of our lives, teach our kids values and grit, and have more fun together.

The Secrets of Happy Families includes more than two hundred unique practices that will help your family draw closer and make everyone in your home happier. It has already changed the lives of millions of families, and it can do the same for yours
Review:
Who doesn't want to have a happy family? This title grabbed me, but I was skeptical about it. However, I went into this book with an open mind and I'm glad that I did because I did pick up some nuggets of wisdom that I am looking forward to implementing into our family routines.

I think the best way to describe this book is that it is a marriage, parenting, self-help book all rolled into one. In some ways, this book sacrifices depth for breadth, but for the most part, it was greatly appreciated because it dabbled in all different facets of family life. From allowances, to rearranging furniture in your house, to vacation scavenger hunts, and even tips for your sex life. I appreciated the extent to which Feiler researched various team-building techniques from all sorts of groups of people, like at ESPN to the Green Berets, from the 5 Love Languages to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. It was a nice collection of best practices for ways to have fun and grow as a family.

My husband and I have always wanted to write a family mission statement and I'm hoping this book will push us over from just thinking about it, into actually doing it, but Feiler encourages you to build a brand as a family. Also, I am looking forward to weekly family meetings when my kids get a little older. I can definitely see it being a touchstone for our family to build conversation. There are lots of other ideas in this book too and I think as long as you go into it picking and choosing what works for you and your family, you'll definitely enjoy learning more about how to cultivate happiness within your own family.

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

About the author:
Meet the Author: Bruce Feiler writes a column in contemporary families for the New York Times and is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including The Council of Dads. He is the host of several series on PBS, a popular lecturer, and a frequent commentator on radio and television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin daughters.
Learn more about Bruce at: http://brucefeiler.com

Check out more posts on the blog tour: http://litfusegroup.com/author/bfeiler

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Blog Tour & Book Review :: The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd


Title: The Headmistress of Rosemere
Author: Sarah E. Ladd
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (Dec. 2013)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group

Buy book: here
About the Book:
Patience Creighton has dedicated herself to the Rosemere School for Young Ladies. But the return of the enigmatic master of the estate puts everything she loves at risk.

Bright, sensible Patience knows what is expected of her. At twenty-five, her opportunity for a family of her own has passed, so she invests herself in teaching at her father’s school for girls. When her father dies suddenly and her brother moves away to London, she is determined to make the school successful.

Confirmed bachelor William Sterling also knows what is expected of him, but mistake after mistake has left him teetering on ruin’s edge. As master of Eastmore Hall he owns a great deal of property — including the land where Rosemere School is located — but possesses little money to manage its upkeep. When debtors start calling, he is desperate to find a new source of income, even if it means sacrificing Rosemere.

When a fire threatens the school grounds, William must decide to what lengths he is willing to go to protect his birthright. And when Patience’s brother returns with a new wife to take over management of the school, Patience suddenly finds herself unsure of her calling. After a surprising truth about William’s past is brought to light, both William and Patience will have to seek God’s plans for their lives—and their hearts.
Review:
If you are a fan of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey, Jane Eyre, and anything Regency romance, you don't want to miss this book. I have to confess that while reading Austen and Jane Eyre, I struggled through the language and even though I enjoyed the stories, I am ashamed to admit that I had to watch the movies to help to clarify many things to me that I didn't completely comprehend through the robust language. However, even though The Headmistress of Rosemere is very similar to Austen, I am happy to say that it is a much easier read, but just as enjoyable with lots of family drama, interwoven with romance here and there.

I missed out on Ladd's first book, The Heiress of Winterwood, when it came out last year, but I definitely want to read it as soon as I can now that I've finished this one. This book can stand alone though, so it's not necessary to have read the first book in Whisper on the Moors.

This book grabbed me from the first chapter and it was definitely a page-turner for me. The story goes back and forth between Patience Creighton's and William Sterling's perspectives. It was interesting to really hear what was going on in both character's minds. I've grown to really enjoy stories told this way. In some ways, the side characters were just as enjoyable and their characterization really added dimension to the story. I love the way Ladd uses words to put you right into the story.

What I loved about this book was Patience and William's relationship. I felt very connected to Patience, maybe because I am an teacher and can understand her strong sense of duty and responsibility. She's been through so much with the death of her father, abandonment and betrayal of her brother and lack of love from her mother. She's a prime example of how much God can do through us even when we are beat up and broken down, and that He always has a plan. William undergoes such a compelling change from beginning to the end of the story that just screams REDEMPTION! I loved the interactions between these two and how they grew to love each other amidst all circumstances.

The twists and turns kept the pages turning and even though I thought I knew what was going to happen at the end, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was wrong.

I am looking forward to Ladd's next book this fall!

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

About the author:
Sarah E. Ladd has always loved the Regency period — the clothes, the music, the literature and the art. A college trip to England and Scotland confirmed her interest in the time period and gave her idea of what life would’ve looked like in era. It wasn’t until 2010 that Ladd began writing seriously.  Shortly after, Ladd released the first book in The Whispers on the Moors series. Book one of the series, The Heiress of Winterwood, was the recipient of the 2011 ACFW Genesis Award for historical romance.

Ladd also has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing.

Ladd lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.

To keep up with Sarah Ladd, visit www.sarahladd.com, become a fan on Facebook (Sarah Ladd Author), or follow her on Twitter (@SarahLaddAuthor).

Check out more posts on the blog tour: http://litfusegroup.com/author/sladd

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy birthday, Kelly Marie!


Happy birthday, Kelly!


First off, let me start by saying that I am NOT a card maker. In fact, this is the first card I have ever made and I find it fitting that it is for my good friend, Kelly Marie (because I don't think I would have done it for anyone else but her.) I'm normally a Project Lifer, so it was kind of fun to actually make a card (using my PL journal cards, of course.)

Happy birthday my dear friend. I am so happy for you and all that happened over the past five years with Lawn fawn. It's been such a blessing to watch it blossom from just an idea into a thriving, growing business. I am so proud of your hard work to make Lawn fawn the company it is today. You are such an inspiration to me and to so many others in the crafts world. I'm just lucky to call you friend.

And I'm super lucky that I still get handmade, original, one-of-a-kind Kelly Marie cards because I love them and love YOU to pieces.

Wishing you all the best this year and hope that your 33rd year only brings much more joy and happiness.

All our love,
Jasmine (and the rest of the Kos)

P.S. Let's hang out soon! We craving "Mike and Kelly" time... either that, or another Coty's burrito. Hehe. :)

I hope you will check out the other many birthday projects that other fawnies have created for Kelly. Here's the list:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blog Tour & Review :: Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Title: Once Upon a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Publisher: Zondervan (May 7, 2013)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group

Buy book: here
About the Book:
The Royal Wedding Series Book One

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess—just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn’t going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simon’s Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family’s tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna’s aid under the fabled Lover’s Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He’s a royal prince. She’s a ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation.

It’s the ultimate choice. His kingdom or her heart? God’s will or their own?



Review:
I loved this book. I really loved this book. It was exactly what I wanted in a love a story and I haven't read something like this in a long, long time. I loved The Wedding Dress last year and was so excited to be able to read Once Upon a Prince.

Inspired by the real-life love story of Prince William and Kate, this story follows the same formula of commoner-falls in love with-famous person. I will be the first to admit that I love all things about Kate Middleton and Prince William. Who doesn't grow up wanting to marry a prince? Even though I think we are brainwashed by Disney at a very young age, but I think at our core, we are searching for our prince and it really isn't until we find Jesus that we find our true Savior. In Once Upon a Prince, we get an inside look at the budding love between prince and commoner and the challenges that come along with it (and any other "normal" relationship). Even though this kind of love story could have been overly predictable, glamorized,  and sensationalized, I love its simplicity because it is a good, wholesome love story. It was incredibly refreshing to my soul to read a pure love story.

What makes this book great is that everything is believable. The main character, Susanna Truitt, is definitely a real, authentic, and flawed girl-next-door who meets Prince Nathaniel of Brighton who is bearing the impeding weight of taking on his father's kingdom. You understand them and feel for them. Most importantly, you root for them on their journeys to follow God's Will and not their own. It feels like a story that could really happen even though falling in love with a prince only seems to happen in fairy tales, but with God, ANYTHING is possible and Hauck does an exceptional job of weaving God in and out of her book. I love that the characters have unanswered prayers until the timing is right. It's what we struggle with on our walk with God each and every day, not just in our love lives.

I especially enjoyed the use of Susanna's friend, Aurora, as a "fairy godmother" kind of character. She comes in and out of the story at critical moments with prophetic warnings and messages. Aurora and the cast of various secondary characters make this story even more enjoyable and well-rounded.

I cannot wait for the next book!

Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

About the author:
Rachel Hauck is the bestselling author of ACFW Book of the Year winner Sweet Caroline, RITA Finalist Love Starts With Elle, bestselling and RITA Finalist The Wedding Dress, and of the critically acclaimed fiction collaboration with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, The Songbird Novels. Hauck’s latest release, Once Upon A Prince, is already receiving rave reviews, including a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly.

Hauck earned a degree in Journalism from Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes fan. She worked in the corporate software world until 2004 when she began to write fulltime. Although she admits to being Yankee-born, Hauck has lived in the south most of her life and works her southern experience into her stories. She now lives in sunny, though sometimes hurricane-plagued, central Florida with her husband and writes from her own two-story tower.

She is the past president of American Christian Fiction Writers and now serves on the Executive Board. Hauck is also one of five author contributors to Southern Belle View Daily.

Visit her website at www.rachelhauck.com to sign up for her newsletter, read her blog and follow her on Facebook (Rachel Hayes Hauck) and Twitter (@RachelHauck). 

Check out more posts on the blog tour: http://litfusegroup.com/author/rhauck


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Blog Tour & Review :: Secretly Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter

Title: Secretly Smitten
Author: Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers (January 8, 2013)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group

Buy book: here
About the Book:
Summer, fall, winter, spring-Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

There's a secret in Grandma Rose's attic-a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose's three granddaughters-Tess, Clare, and Zoe-and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

Join popular romance novelists-and real-life BFFs-Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for four delightful intertwined tales of mystery and sweet intrigue.

Review:
I enjoyed reading Smitten last year and was excited to be able to read this 2nd book. At first I was a little nervous that it would be an unnecessary sequel, but then when I found out that there are four new characters, I was sold.

One of my favorite things about reading Smitten last year was that it introduced me to some new authors that I haven't read before. It was nice to see all their different writing styles combined again into one compilation.

In some ways this book is actually better than the first one because three of the characters are sisters who are are on the mission to solve the mystery of their grandmother's first love and their stories a little more intertwined together than the friends in the first one. Regardless, I was so happy to revisit Smitten and still secretly wish that this was a real town that I could visit in real life. It was fun to revisit this quaint town again.

The stories are very light and cute including dog tags, knitting (and a sheep!), the same snappy, witty dialogue from the first book and another all-around feel good story.

If you like Christian fiction, you will love this quick, light love story. You'll be smitten with Secretly Smitten. :)

Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

About the authors:
RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including "Tidewater Inn", and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. * Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include "A Billion Reasons Why" and "What a Girl Wants." * Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including "A Cowboy's Touch" and "Sweetwater Gap." She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana. * Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate.

Find out more about Coble, Billerbeck, Hunter, Hunt here.


Check out more posts on the blog tour: http://litfusegroup.com/author/Smitten

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